Some call this a mindfulness revolution but, like Jonathan Rowson at the Royal Society of Arts in a recent thoughtful blog, I think the jury is still out. Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist meditation, which at its heart is revolutionary in its emphasis on compassion and non-harm. It is profoundly counter-cultural in its asceticism. But this derivative has been meticulously framed as secular by a generation of scientists.
They identified that the Buddha’s insights into the behaviour of the human mind was resonating with breakthroughs in psychology and neuroscience.
Delinked from Buddhist ethics, mindfulness could become a form of performance enhancement – some of the enthusiasm coming from the corporate sectors and military leads it dangerously in this direction. That is a real risk. As is the danger of a sort of wild west of unregulated teachers, which any cursory web search reveals is well under way.
Another risk is that it becomes the privilege of the stressed middle classes who can afford the courses. Some of the most inspiring work is being done by people like Gary Heads in County Durham who is working with unemployed people. Or the project in Cardiff which taught the single mum who recently stood in front of a gathering of Welsh Assembly members to describe movingly how mindfulness had helped her to be a better parent, as well as to find the confidence for public speaking.
The point is that, diligently practised, it very quietly and slowly revolutionises lives in multiple ways – sometimes small, sometimes big. And when you start noticing that process of change – both in yourself and in others – it is quite simply astonishing.